February 5, 2005

A Famous Victory, Or a Shot In the Foot?

Mangan's Miscellany is concerned about the Iraqi election results so far. He seems to think the apparent victory of the Shi'i coalition may not be as good a thing as some, such as Gerard, think it is.

Of course, from a historical perspective, we won't know for another 200 years or so what the true effect of the election is.

However, from a shorter-term perspective, I believe Mangan's worries may not be justified. Ayatollah Sistani was not a candidate, although he backed the Shi'i coalition. This is a diverse group that includes all sorts of people.

Although Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran developed the heterodox principle of wilayat-e-faqih, or rule by the religious experts, the Iraqi Shi'i have not adopted this concept. They have played their hand carefully, not allowing themselves to be provoked by the Ba'ath terrorists, Zarqawi's group, and not allowing Shi'i extremists such as Muqtada As-Sadr to seduce them into violence.

They have even allowed as how the Sunni parties, notwithstanding their electoral boycott, will have to participate in the writing of the constitution.

Does this mean Iraq is about to turn into a Hamiltonian or Jeffersonian democracy, or that ethnic, religious and tribal strife won't occur? Of course not. But neither is Iraq about to turn into a Shi'i theocracy -- the more so because the Iraqis are keenly aware of the corruption and excesses that have plagued Iran since Khomeini. It may not be easy, and it may not be pretty, and the Ba'ath and Zarqawi haven't been defeated yet. But it's too soon to write off Iraq as either a budding theocracy or an inevitable cockpit of civil war.

Or so we must hope.

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